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N2389P accident description

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Crash location 43.846944°N, 84.011389°W
Nearest city Pinconning, MI
43.853633°N, 83.964987°W
2.4 miles away
Tail number N2389P
Accident date 21 Mar 2012
Aircraft type Piper PA-22-150
Additional details: None
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NTSB Factual Report

On March 21, 2012, at 1916 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-22-150 airplane, N2389P, was substantially damaged while landing at Gross Airport (52I), Pinconning, Michigan. The pilot sustained serious injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight. The flight departed James Clements Municipal Airport (3CM), Bay City, Michigan, about 1858 with 52I as the intended destination.

The pilot reported that he entered the traffic pattern for runway 27 (2,565 feet by 100 feet, grass/turf) on a left downwind. After turning onto final approach, he encountered an "intense glare" from the setting sun in the west, which obscured his view of the runway and the threshold markers. He stated that after he had verified that the airplane was properly aligned with the runway there was insufficient runway remaining to make a safe landing. He performed a go-around and reentered the traffic pattern. During the go-around he put-on his sunglasses and installed a windshield sun-screen in an attempt to reduce the glare of the sun.

The pilot reported that although the glare was reduced during his second landing approach, he still could not identify the runway or the threshold markers. He aligned the airplane with what he thought was the runway and continued to descend until he unexpectedly saw trees ahead of the airplane's flight path. He immediately applied full engine power, but the airplane impacted the trees and then the ground. The pilot noted that there were no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation of the airplane.

The airport manager reported that his attention was drawn to the airplane when he heard the engine suddenly power up during final approach. Although he did not recall seeing the airplane impact trees, he did witness the airplane crash in the residential property located immediately north of the airport. He noted that after the accident the pilot told him that the glare of the setting sun obscured his vision during his initial landing approach, requiring a go-around and reentering the traffic pattern.

An on-site examination was completed by inspectors with the Federal Aviation Administration. Their examination revealed that the airplane had collided with trees before encountering a north/south power line that ran parallel to a nearby road. Several broken tree branches were found on the ground between the tree line and the main wreckage. Tree bark material was found embedded in the outboard portion of the left wing leading edge. A portion of the power/utility line was found wrapped around the upper portion vertical stabilizer and rudder. The observed wreckage debris path was consistent with the airplane traveling westbound when it collided with the obstacles.

A global positioning system (GPS) handheld device was found at the accident site. The plotted GPS data was consistent with the pilot and airport manager descriptions of the accident flight path. The data confirmed that the pilot had made two approaches to runway 27. The first approach was roughly aligned with the northern edge of the runway. The second approach was aligned about 300 feet north of the runway.

The closest weather observing station was at Jack Barstow Airport (KIKW), located about 18 miles southwest of the accident site. At 1914, the KIKW automated surface observing system reported the following weather conditions: wind 220 degrees at 6 knots; visibility 10 miles; scattered clouds at 8,000 feet above ground level; temperature 29 degrees Celsius; dew point 10 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting 30.06 inches of mercury.

Astronomical data obtained from the United States Naval Observatory indicated that the local sunset was at 1950, about 34 minutes after the accident. The end of civil twilight was listed at 2019.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to properly align his airplane with the runway during final approach. Contributing to the accident was the sunglare that obscured the pilot's view of the runway.

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